But when the second half starts, Wisconsin takes it to another level. Coming into the game having only allowed 26 points in the final two quarters, No.25 Wisconsin again put together an admirable showing, limiting the Illini to only 15 points – including one against the reserves – that helped the Badgers earn a 56-32 victory in front of 47, 362 fans at Memorial Stadium Saturday night.
"I think a lot of it is obviously the coaches make their corrections at halftime and draw it up on the board and the players go out and execute it," said senior linebacker Ethan Armstrong. "Any time in the first half they're going to be some plays that you haven't seen or game planned for. To be able to get corrections at halftime is kind of key and to take it out and apply to the field."
The second touchdown by Illinois was late in the fourth quarter and Jakarrie Washington gave up a 29-yard score on an athletic grab by Spencer Harris. That was the theme tonight. While the Badgers held Illinois to 72 rushing yards, Wisconsin gave up 319 yards through the air and five explosive plays of at least 20 yards.
"Coaches and players are working hard on those young backs and we need to focus on it now because we had some problems today in the back end," Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen said.
"Defensively, we played hard, and we flew around the field, but we're going to have to be better than that on defense. We're better then that on defense and I give a lot of credit to Illinois. They are a hard team to stop. We had too many mental break downs with pre snap awareness where we need to be."
Red Zone Woes
In addition to strong second halves, Wisconsin's defense had been strong in the red zone this year, only allowing five touchdowns. Illinois scored over half that Saturday with three touchdowns and a field goal.
Wisconsin was able to redeem itself late in the third quarter by coming up with a goal-line stand thanks to junior linebacker Marcus Trotter – who replaced injured All-American Chris Borland - stuffing freshman quarterback Aaron Bailey at the 1-yard line.
"I was at the right place at the right time and I'm very happy that I made that play," Trotter said. "I got some support from my teammates on that play as well."
Although Wisconsin gave up three scores in the red zone, Armstrong is trying to take the good and the bad.
"It comes down to at the end execution; you need to be perfect down there because one mistake, one misstep, one misread, and it's a touchdown," Armstrong said. "Kind of disappointed we gave those up but you know at times we bode up and we made a few stops, which was good. Any time you make stops in the red zone and take points off the board is a big thing."
Trotter Responds to Call of Duty
Not seeing a lot of plays this season being Borland's backup, Trotter responded well when called into action in the second quarter to replace Borland, who aggravated his right hamstring on punt coverage. Trotter led the Badgers with nine tackles, had a half tackle for loss, recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter and broke up a pass.
"I felt pretty good," Trotter said. "I always tell myself, sooner or later, maybe something will happen. I always have to go into a game prepared, calm and ready and help the team."
Borland said he tried to get back in the game but didn't want to injure himself any further. While he's confident that he will ready for Iowa on Nov.2, Borland was happy with how Trotter stepped in for him.
"He was called into duty kind of by surprise," Borland said. "I've had to do that before and it's difficult but I think he handled it well and had a good game."
The backup to Borland for the last three years, Trotter made sure that if he wasn't on the field he was picking the mind of Borland on the sideline.
"I would ask him what he sees in the offense, what does he see in me and what I'm doing wrong," Trotter said. "Like I always say, getting in the head of Chris Borland is a cool thing because his aspect on certain things is brilliant."
Extra Points: Wisconsin has worn red helmets three times this season. In those games, UW has scored an average of 46.3 points (139-38) and outscored its opponents by 33.7 points per game … The Badgers scored a touchdown on their first offensive drive of the game. It is the third time this season that has happened. The other two times were Wisconsin's first two games of the season … Kenzel Doe's 54-yard kickoff return was the longest of his career and the longest since Jared Abbrederis' 60-yard return against Minnesota on Nov. 12, 2011.